Romans 14:10-12, “Why do you pass judgment on your brother? Or you, why do you despise your brother? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God; 11 for it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
and every tongue shall confess[a] to God.”
12 So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.”
We are making our way through Romans 14 and its extensive discussion of what Christians are to do when they find themselves disagreeing over matters that God has not specifically regulated in His Word. Paul has stressed the importance of our not judging one another in such cases (vv. 4, 7-9), but before we move on, we must note that the Apostle is not saying that we may never judge in any circumstance. In fact, he calls the church to make judgments when appropriate (1 Cor. 5). When believers are in public sin or are violating those standards about which the Lord has spoken plainly, it is right and necessary for Christians to judge others, and especially for church leaders who are tasked with maintaining the peace and purity of the church. Even here, however, those who judge must act in humility, remembering that they cannot see the offender’s heart but only his outward conduct. When church leaders excommunicate a professing believer for gross, impenitent sin, they do so hoping the sinner is yet regenerate and that God will bring him to repentance. Excommunication is not an absolute statement on the condition of a person’s soul but the church’s confession that as far as it can tell, that person is not a believer.
Ultimately, the judgment of the believer is the prerogative of God alone. This is why Paul highlights our Creator’s lordship in addressing the problem in the Roman church of the weak believer who looks down on the strong believer for eating meat and the strong believer who looks down on the weak believer for his commitment to vegetarianism. In today’s passage, the Apostle brings God’s right to judge His people to bear explicitly. Paul condemns people on each side for passing judgment on people on the other side when it is the Lord alone who has the right to evaluate the heart and discern the believer’s motivation in matters where He has left us free (Rom. 14:10-12). When we presume to view those who differ with us regarding minor issues as unacceptable to God, we are exalting ourselves to the position that only the Lord occupies. John Calvin comments, “It is an unreasonable boldness in any one to assume the power to judge his brother, since by taking such a liberty he robs Christ the Lord of the power which he alone has received from the Father.”
“Each of us will give an account of himself to God” (v. 12). We ought to be more concerned with how our thoughts and attitudes will be evaluated on that final day than with how God will measure the hearts of others.
If we are in Christ Jesus by faith alone, the sin of judgmentalism will not keep us out of the kingdom. We will find ourselves repenting for this transgression, and the blood of our Savior will cover us where we fall short. Still, we must remember that God’s weighing of our hearts will determine the rewards we receive in heaven. We are granted heaven by grace alone through faith alone, but a judgmental spirit will reduce the blessings we will receive once we are actually there.